Good services (in the University)
At a recent awayday, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on services, what that means for how our team does its work and how it might have wider impact.
Here’s a rough transcript of what I said…
“Good services are verbs, bad services are nouns”
Lou Downe – former Head of Director of Design for the UK government
What do we actually mean by a service?
Lou Downe’s view: A service is something that helps someone to do something.
It’s a simple definition and it works for me.
So a service could be something very straightforward like buying a hoodie from the Visitor Centre, or something complex like designing and delivering a University-wide marketing campaign.
Some services involve one organisation or department. Some involve multiple, with tasks that need to be done in a particular order with interaction between parties out of sight of the end user.
But the thing that unites services is they help someone to achieve their goal.
There are key questions that I don’t think we as an organisation are good at asking ourselves, and and we rarely have evidenced answers:
- How well do we know our users?
- How well do we understand what users (rightly or wrongly) are aspiring to? What are their goals?
- How are we aligning our resource and expertise around our users goals?
How this influences our team’s work
Within our team, these questions are central to how we are shaping up to deliver something to replace the existing degree finders.
Because for me, the degree finder is fundamentally a collection or aggregator of prospective student services. Some of these are quite simple, others are complex and involve multiple providers. With our upcoming project, we are thinking beyond the website interface and deeper into the interaction a student has with various areas of the institution to achieve their goals.
It’s perhaps simpler when we think about the service our team provides to colleagues in schools, colleges and service areas. We are committed to better understanding our internal system users too and helping them achieve their goals.
A couple of things I’ve written in the past:
But what does this way of thinking mean to our department (Communications and Marketing) and to the University as a whole?
As I was considering what to talk about in my 3 minutes at the departmental awayday, I reflected on common themes in discussion that come up regularly when we consider our departmental challenges:
- How do we break down the silos within Communications and Marketing?
- How do we position ourselves within the institution and manage expectation?
For me the answer to both these challenges revolve around a coherent, user-centred definition of our service offer. After all, just like the degree finder, the Department of Communications and Marketing is an umbrella under which multiple services for multiple audiences exist.
We have users with goals, and we have a collection of professionals with specific areas of expertise to offer. The challenge is less about who the department is or how it’s perceived, and more around delivering services that are the best fit between what users need and what we have expertise and capacity to offer.
Silos will be far less apparent if we organise around the services we provide, and expectation better managed if we present ourselves more by what we offer rather than by what our organisational subgroups are named.
This is of course no small ask. But I (like other heads at this awayday) was challenged to think ambitiously.
It all starts with a consistent user-focused service mindset and approach.